State Testing and Ordeal by Water – Education Thoughts

This blog will help you prepare for state tests that determine if your teacher has taught you anything, if you have learned anything, and whether or not your school is worth attending.

Question #1.  Compare and contrast the following two articles.

On State Testing, excerpt from New York Times Opinion, April 10, 2014, written by Elizabeth Phillips, Principal Public School 321, Brooklyn, NY:

We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools. (Among other things, test scores help determine teacher and principal evaluations, and in New York City they also have an impact on middle and high school admissions to some schools.) We were protesting the fact that it is our word against the state’s, since we cannot reveal the content of the passages or the questions that were asked.

In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards. The questions were focused on small details in the passages, rather than on overall comprehension, and many were ambiguous. Children as young as 8 were asked several questions that required rereading four different paragraphs and then deciding which one of those paragraphs best connected to a fifth paragraph. There was a strong emphasis on questions addressing the structure rather than the meaning of the texts. There was also a striking lack of passages with an urban setting. And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.

On Ordeal by Water, excerpt from Wikipedia:

TrialByWaterOrdeal by water was associated with the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries: an accused who sank was considered innocent, while floating indicated witchcraft. Demonologists developed inventive new theories about how it worked. Some argued that witches floated because they had renounced baptism when entering the Devil’s service. Jacob Rickius claimed that they were supernaturally light and recommended weighing them as an alternative to dunking them. King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) claimed in his Daemonologie that water was so pure an element that it repelled the guilty. A witch trial including this ordeal took place in Szeged, Hungary as late as 1728.

Question #2.  How do you know if a test actually measures what it is supposed to?

Extra credit.  Who is the qualified and independent party “accountable” for insuring that high stakes tests measure what they are supposed to?


It makes no sense to hold students and educators accountable to a test that misses its marks.  Kudos to Ms. Phillips for courageous leadership.



Phillips, Elizabeth.


Other posts

The Common Core Standards for High School have depth, yes, but too much breadth to effectively teach (or learn). The River is Too Wide.


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